Far West Open Begins
By Michael Aigner   
April 3, 2010
hometowns.jpgHello from the 10th Far West Open in Reno!  I am writing these paragraphs from the rear of the playing hall, specifically on board 16 of the D section.  My cell phone tells me it is Saturday morning, while my brain still thinks it is Friday night.  Eight games are in progress at this late hour-certainly well beyond the bedtime of at least three of the players.  Anxious parents are waiting, either in the hallway outside or on the sides of the playing hall.  The Grandmaster on board 1 is playing an endgame down a pawn, but at a quick glance it looks like he can hold the draw. 

Update on 4/4/2010:
Four players are tied for first at 3.5/4 in the Far West Open: GM Melik Khachiyan, GM Jesse Kraai, IM Enrico Sevillano and Washington state champion NM Howard Chen.  The chase group at 3.0 is topped by GM Alex Yermolinsky and FM Steven Zierk.  The final two rounds are scheduled for Sunday with cash prize payouts in the casino at 11:00pm.

The peanut gallery of spectators circles around board in the Open section.  Both kings are nearly checkmated.  The 2000 rated high school kid is in deep thought, well aware that he must find the right continuation or else lose.  His nationally ranked opponent, four years younger yet 200 points higher rated, has already seen it.  A few minutes later, they bang out a couple of moves-mate!  Congrats to Arthur Liou on pulling out a difficult victory against a talented challenger.

In the skittles room across the hallway, a few gentlemen play blitz.  The room was full two hours ago; only the last blitz players and bookstore salespeople remain.  The Chess Palace from Southern California is selling books, software, sets and clocks to students of the game as well as hobbyists.  A flyer on the wall announces the special event on Saturday afternoon: the youngest chess author in the world, FM Daniel Naroditsky, will sign books between 4 and 5pm. 

The quiet of the skittles room gives me an opportunity to study the wall charts carefully, searching for my friends and students.  Over 200 chess enthusiasts drove or flew to Reno, an increase of about 25 from last year.  Veteran organizer Jerry Weikel made little effort to hide his pleasure with the turnout.  Given the ongoing recession and a late spring snowstorm, it could easily have been much worse.   Thanks also to the Sands Regency casino hotel for supporting chess tournaments in Reno, twice a year for a full decade.

GM Yermolinsky
A dozen FIDE titled players headline the 56 player Open section.  Four competitors are rated above 2500: Grandmasters Melik Khachiyan, Alex Yermolinsky and Jesse Kraai plus strong International Master Enrico Sevillano.  Of course, I expect the other six International Masters (plus a WIM) to also fight for the top prizes.  Reno has always attracted a large number of titled players thanks to the friendly care of organizer Weikel, his family and the entire staff.

Sam Sevian and GM Melik Khachiyan
Don't forget the kids!  How could I?  By my count, the Open section includes four youngsters ranked #1 for their age on the April Top 100 lists (and three more at #2): FM Tanuj Vasudeva (8), Samuel Sevian (9), NM Kayden Troff (11), NM Yian Liou (12), NM David Adelberg (13), FM Daniel Naroditsky (14) and FM Steven Zierk (16).  I wonder who will prevail: the professionals or the kids?

Finally the games on boards 1 and 2 finished.  The Grandmasters both held their ground, drawing the exciting endgames.  In fact, seven of the top eight boards were drawn tonight-but all were fighting draws.  Consequently, there are only three perfect scores left after two rounds.  Unfortunately, IM Enrico Sevillano showed no mercy to me, taking my f-pawn to the bank when I sacrificed it for insufficient compensation.  The others at 2-0 are NM Garush Manukyan and NM Howard Chen.  Most of the titled players sit at 1.5 points, which should make for some interesting pairings tomorrow morning.

The Grandmasters left the stage.  The audience has also dispersed.  It is 1:45am and only two A players managed to reach the third time control after 6 hours and 60 moves.  It will be a short night with the morning round scheduled for 10:00am.  On that note, I will hit the sack.

Don't forget to check out my chess blog and Twitter page for more updates throughout the weekend.  Watch CLO for a final report-complete with a few games-at the middle of next week.